Bill would make some animal abuse a felony

A bill introduced today by two Ohio House members from Mahoning County would make animal abuse by its custodian or caregiver a felony.

The proposed law change stems from an incident that occurred in Youngstown in October 2008, said state Reps. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, and Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, the bill’s sponsors.

Steve Croley, 38, of Lowellville, operated High Caliber K-9 on Coitsville-Hubbard Road in Youngstown, where seven dead and 12 starving dogs were found. He was convicted in January of four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and sentenced to four months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams and city Prosecutor Jay Macejko had encouraged state legislators to elevate animal cruelty to a felony from a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months incarceration. The crime is a felony in 45 other states.

The abuse of someone’s pet is deplorable and this bill will make each occurrence of abuse a fifth-degree felony,” Gerberry said. “This means for each incident, the court can assign a sentence of up to 12 months in jail.”

“This legislation embodies a measured approach to dealing with similar situations in the future,” Hagan added. “It will give local prosecutors the necessary tools to punish those inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on pets.”

The law must pass the House and the state Senate and be signed by the governor before it could take effect.

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